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 By Ian Holyman

Marcel's long journey to Nice has him prepared to make the jump to Spurs

Paul Pogba, Lassana Diarra, Riyad Mahrez and Steve Mandanda -- just four names on the long and glorious list of players who took their first major steps in football at Le Havre. Tottenham Hotspur target Vincent Marcel could add his name to the list.

Le Havre Athletic Club, France's oldest professional football team, has made the task of unearthing raw talent, and polishing it into a player who is ready to take the next step up, a highly refined art form.

Though Le Havre got their fingers burned with Pogba, it has not prevented them from staying true to their philosophy. Marcel could underscore the validity of their ethos if he joins a club just across the Channel from the Normandy city where his career started.

It would be a much shorter move than those in his life journey to date, having left his native Guadeloupe to arrive in mainland France where Le Havre were the first major side to spot his talent.

An attacking midfielder blessed with devastating acceleration and the touch to take the ball with him, he did not make the Ligue 2 outfit's first team, but did do enough to convince Nice to lure him the length of France to the Mediterranean coast in summer 2015.

Vincent Marcel
Vincent Marcel had limited opportunities at Nice last year, but he shone when he got his chances.

The Cote d'Azur club, which is developing its own reputation as a welcoming hive in which youthful prowess can be nurtured, has seen the likes of midfielder Vincent Koziello and goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale emerge from the youth academy to establish themselves in the first team in the past two seasons. The duo was given their chance by Claude Puel, and his successor Lucien Favre has proven equally ready to put the "if you're good enough, you're old enough" adage to the test.

After a season in Nice's reserve team, Marcel was given a chance to seize his place in the sun somewhere other than the city's crowded beaches. However, with competition for places stiff in a side surprisingly pushing for the Ligue 1 title for most of the 2016-17 campaign, opportunities were limited to just three starts and six appearances in Ligue 1 all told.

There were also two Europa League group stage outings, though, turning in a notably mature, impressive display in the win over Krasnodar that gave more than a hint of the potential of a youngster who only turned 20 in April.

"Their development will depend on the coach, of course, but also on themselves. There is a lot of tactical, technical, physical and mental work to be done," Favre said after blooding both Marcel and defender Malang Sarr in the opening game of last season, having carefully followed their progress and invited them to preseason training with the first team. "I had seen Malang and Vincent Marcel play for the Under-19s. They had good movement and looked good."

Favre, and indeed Spurs, is not alone in thinking that. Marcel won a pair of caps for France's U20 side at the start of last season before featuring for Les Bleuets' U19 team in the prestigious Toulon tournament in June.

While his country bowed out in the group stage, he stood out, scoring France's only goal in defeat to Ivory Coast and successfully making the step up to international football. Spurs fans will hope that if he moves to North London this summer, Marcel will find the jump from Ligue 1 to the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League just as comfortable to make.

Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman


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